How to Attract Orioles to Your Backyard

Updated on April 1, 2018
Mike Hardy profile image

Mike is an author of tales, tastes and fun in northern Michigan. When he is not messing around on the Great Lakes, he is writing about them.


April is a big bird month in the Great Lakes region. The ubiquitous robins have been around since mid-March and are starting to feast on insects and worms emerging from the frozen earth. The next anticipated migratory bird to swoop in on the scene is the Baltimore oriole. After spending the winter in Mexico, Cuba, and Central America, this migratory bird has been making his way to Canada, the Great Lakes, and New England regions since early March.

With a little persistence, you can attract orioles to your yard within a few weeks. By using these rules of thumb, you can have this colorful resident for the entire summer season.

Orange is the new black. Orioles are attracted to orange. Some may return seasonally if you set up feeders early.
Orange is the new black. Orioles are attracted to orange. Some may return seasonally if you set up feeders early. | Source

Tips for Attracting Orioles: Orange and Early

Think Orange

Orioles are attracted to bright, vibrant colors. We found that having an orange feeder or using real cut orange halves draws the bird in for the feast. Set the sliced orange halves in a shallow bit of water to discourage ants. Replace the oranges daily. If you see black gunk form, clean off the area. Mold can be harmful to the birds.

Start Early in the Season

Our hypothesis is that orioles have a great memory. One early spring, we spotted a small flock fly in and watch as we unpacked the car until the feeder was placed. Placing your feeders out early will catch the early arrivals and may turn those passing through to seasonal residents.

Clearly Accessible Feeder and Simple Nectar

The author's perfect oriole feeder.
The author's perfect oriole feeder. | Source

Keep the Feeder Out in the Open

We have seen the most active oriole feeder posted on a pole in the middle of the yard. They like to swoop in, take a sample or two of the sweet nectar, and then fly off to a nearby perch to finish up, preen, and do it again.

Offer Clear Nectar

We use the same sugar nectar recipe for both orioles and hummingbirds:

  1. Add one cup granulated sugar to four cups of boiling water.
  2. Stir and let cool.
  3. Refrigerate unused portion.
  4. Never use food coloring.
  5. Some experts recommend thinning the ratio up to eight parts water to 1 part sugar.

Keep Your Oriole Feeder Clean

Female orioles blend in.
Female orioles blend in. | Source

Nectar Alternative: Jelly

A favorite alternative to nectar is to offer a small amount of grape jelly. A couple of tablespoons in an open dish or container it like ringing the dinner bell. You may see some aggressive behavior by the orioles as they vie for feeding rights. You can make for an easier clean up by mixing a ¼ cup of water into the jelly.

Keep It Clean and Bug-Free

If you see black gunk form around your feeder, take it in, wash it, and rinse it off. This advice holds double for hummingbird feeders. The sweet nectar will draw in ants and other critters.

A Nest Is a Great Sign

Oriole parents both raise their young.
Oriole parents both raise their young. | Source

If You See an Oriole Nest, Offer Bugs

If you are lucky enough to see one of the small, grey sack-like nests in your yard, start offering mealworms. In the early summer, the birds crave the sweet from fruit nectar after their long migratory flight north. However, once breeding season starts, they will begin to seek out insects. Mealworms are a great high-protein food that will build them up for their next flight south.

Leave Oriole Nests in Place

The bird won't reuse the nest, but they will recycle the material. Orioles will set their nests out on slender, green twigs to discourage predators like raccoons. We found nests in small bushes from three to six feet off the ground. One suggestion that we have not tried is to offer lengths of twine fiber or horsehair. Sadly, we have seen small spreads of plastic wrap in one nest.

Do You Feed Hummingbirds and Orioles?

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Silent Environments and Water Draws Orioles

Water—They Love It

Orioles are attracted to shallow, moving water. We have seen them attracted to a shallow puddle after a rainstorm. Select a wide shallow basin and add a bubbler or small pump to create water movement to attract the most birds. Keep the water clean. Bright colors will also draw their attention.

Keep Your Feeders Away From Activity

Orioles are typically shy. They do not like a lot of traffic from humans or animals. Try to locate your feeder in an open area where it can be seen from the air and treetops. Placement in a high branch or on top of a pole is ideal.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Mike Hardy


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      • Mike Hardy profile image

        Mike Hardy 12 days ago from Caseville, Michigan

        I have our new oriole feeder ready. We will be up next weekend. We celebrate mom's b'day on Sunday. (It was Tuesday)

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        Jeanne Henry 12 days ago

        Cold weather & persistent flurries in Caseville are slowing spring bird arrivals. Tundra Swans are flying over in noisy flocks. But the Robins we’ve seen so far are wearing fleece.